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OLYW - ‘Unique’ Jackson holds court
LONDON (Olympics) - Australia survived in another close encounter at the 2012 Olympics on Tuesday against China to reach the Semi-Finals.
The Opals, who are joint-second with Russia in the FIBA Women's Ranking, struggled to put away the Asian giants but lowered the boom in the last frame for a 15-point win.
Australia outscored China 20-8 in the final quarter for a 75-60 win.
Even for a country that has captured silver medals at the previous three Summer Games and won a world title in 2006, the players see reaching the last four as a big accomplishment.
Australia were fifth at the 2010 World Championship and also came to London without injured Penny Taylor, one of their most important players.
In Thursday's Semi-Finals, they will play the United States, a team they’re accustomed to playing in the Gold Medal Game.
Australia wouldn’t have made it this far without four-time Olympian Lauren Jackson.
The 31-year-old power forward/center became the leading scorer in Olympic women’s basketball history with 12 points against China.
She now has 536 points, one more than Brazil great Janeth.
"It's been a unique Olympics for Lauren,” said Opals coach Carrie Graf.
“First, she was Australia's flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony and now breaking the scoring record is another landmark.
“But knowing her, she would trade that for the game (Australia lost) against France.
"This speaks to the impact player she has been for Australia, in the WNBA, in Europe and in Australia.
"It speaks to the icon that she is in Australia and all around the world."
Jackson spoke after the win over China.
FIBA: First of all, what are your thoughts on the victory?
Jackson: It's been the same as the whole tournament. We've been really up and down, having to catch people. It was one of those games where it was a real slug-out. We didn't really get ahead until the fourth quarter. It was good.
FIBA: You've been in five tight games. What if the next game is tight?
Jackson: We've had to come back a few times in this tournament. We don't want it to be like that with the Americans because they're just too good. They are way too good for that. It's going to be a really interesting game in terms of how we respond to their running. We've been playing a lot of shorter teams. It's going to be interesting to see how it all pans out. I think it's going to be a lot different style to how we've played. They're great.
FIBA: What about their defensive pressure?
Jackson: Their defensive pressure is amazing. I'm not really going to think about it until tomorrow (laughs). The key for us it to keep our composure and mainly keep at it. We just can't get down by the fast break points. (Otherwise) It could be a frustrating game.
FIBA: What about going to center Liz Cambage?
Jackson: Going to Liz obviously helps us a lot. A lot of people can scout that, like they did at the last World Championship but we have other options as well so everybody has to step up.
FIBA: Could you comment on the scoring record?
Jackson: I hope we win. What day is it today? Tuesday, Wednesday? That's all I can think about. I'm happy, obviously. That's something that's nice but this is a team sport …
FIBA: Losing Penny for the Olympics, are you where you thought you would be as a team?
Jackson: In 2010, we finished in fifth. We're not going to finish fifth this time. For me, I'm really proud of my teammates. We had Penny at the last World Championship. So at this point, we're back in the semi-Finals, back in the top four and losing Penny obviously hurt us but we couldn't do it last time with her.
FIBA: How much more special is this one for you considering the injuries that you've had to overcome the past year or so?
Jackson: Injuries are killers but yes, this is special and I just want to do special things with this team.
FIBA: Does it feel strange that the next game is not for the gold medal and you are facing the US?
Jackson: Yes, it is strange but at the same time if you have had the last four years that we've had since Beijing, there has been a lot of change within our program. Like I said, just for us to get back to the Semi-Finals and be a medal contender, it's huge for us. So I'm just hoping that we can get higher than the top four and obviously America is going to be a huge task for us but we can't get out-focused. We're going to go out there and play tough and do everything we can to beat them but you know, they're a hard team to beat. And that comes from someone who beat them in 2006.